Twenty-Four Year Old Plan Still Driving Today’s Debates

This year, the final phase of the Georgetown Waterfront Park was opened. This was the result of decades of efforts by residents, businesses, and government agencies. But what few have talked about is how this accomplishment was merely a part of a larger plan, a plan which is still at the heart of several of today’s debates.

The plan is a plan adopted by the National Park Service, and it lays out 30 actions to improve the Potomac waterfront through Georgetown. A surprising amount of these actions have been accomplished over the years. They include the construction of the park itself, many of the elements of the park, the creation of the Capital Crescent Trail, and the creation of Francis Scott Key Park.

Some elements of the plan that never came to fruition are as alive today as issues as they ever were.

The most contentious part of the plan is the establishment of a boating zone. This zone would allow for the construction of boathouses along the Potomac from 34th St. to about a 100 yards west of the Key Bridge. This has come up most recently due to Georgetown University’s plans to build a massive boathouse in this zone, just west of the Washington Canoe Club. G.U. has spent at least $1 million just lobbying for this project. After a long delay, NPS just announced it was reopening the feasibility review.

What’s funny is to see the plan account for the then-possible plan by Clyde’s to build a floating restaurant:

Under the terms of a 35-year lease signed by the District Government a private firm has docking and parking rights for a 200-seat capacity floating restaurant with space for 86 cars. The floating restaurant will be moored between 34th Street and Key Bridge and will be approximately 200-feet long by 50-feet wide. Once the park is developed, parking for the restaurant will be provided under the freeway (See Item 18). Parking will be located between K Street and the Potomac bulkhead on a short-term basis, but the area will become a landscaped park on completion of Item 18 below. The area designated for boathouse facilities (See Item 14), encompasses the restaurant on the basis that should the lessee not proceed with the restaurant plan, or the restaurant be discontinued, the area would then become available for boating facilities.

The restaurant obviously never came to pass, so this land should go back into the boating zone. However, GM would love to see a hybrid building constructed at the north end of the park providing for boating facilities and a restaurant or outdoor cafe.

Another interesting element of the plan that never came to fruition was the recommendation to purchase the Verizon parking lot. This parking lot is along Wisconsin Ave. just south of the canal and north of Grace Episcopal Church. The report concluded that the land was more connected with the canal and should be purchased before it becomes developed. Too late. EastBanc is building a condominium building here.

Finally, another plot of land slated for development was discussed: the West Heating Plant. This now-shuttered steam plant was identified as a possible raze candidate:

While this facility is currently fully operational, the plan reflects the desirability and long term goal of discontinuing this plant at its prdsent location. While the heating plant was appropriate in what was once an industrial area, the changing character of the Georgetown Waterfront makes its retention highly inappropriate. The plan illustrates the plant removal on a long term basis and the site shown as returned to parkland, part of the C&O Canal National Historical Park.

Some neighbors near this property have cited to this plan as support for their Hail Mary attempt to get the building knocked down and the property converted to parkland. This probably won’t happen since NPS doesn’t have to money to tear down the building and despite what some people think of the building, it is likely to be protected from demolition.

Any, it’s a fascinating list of objectives, all the more fascinating that it remains relevant 24 years later.


Filed under Development

10 responses to “Twenty-Four Year Old Plan Still Driving Today’s Debates

  1. Dave

    I’d like to see a waterfront cafe or something like that to pull some life over on that side of the Park. It is definitely an underutilized area. Would it be possible for the public to utilize any portion of the GU boathouse – or will it be for their use only?

    Also what are those buildings just north (somewhat underneath) Whitehurst and west of the fancy Water St condos that look like abandoned buildings? Are there any plans to redevelop those and help connect the waterfront with Francis Scott Key park?

  2. adam

    At the west end of the waterfront park there is still a paved parking lot that until very recently housed a generator, construction supplies, and maybe some sheds. They just cleared that out and it’s wides open. What’s the plan? It’s just wide open space, covered in pavement, adjacent to the park. Please tell me they’re going to add something green there?

  3. Topher


    Those buildings are addressed in the report. It recommends that NPS buy and raze them. But it looks like the larger one is still in private hands.


    I don’t know what the plan is for that parcel. I personally would love to see a cafe there. I believe that is the parcel that was going to abut the floating Clyde’s. So now that that isn’t happening, I believe that parcel is targeted for boathouse use.

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  5. Walter

    @ Topher and Dave
    The building unit at the east end of this block is the future home of Malmaison, and over the past several weeks, interior demolition has been underway. The building unit at the west end houses offices of the National Park Service. In between, the other units are GSA owned, and I believe are used by other nameless Federal agencies. This property is not on GSA’s list for disposal, so one can presume the nameless agencies find it a facility with operational value.

  6. Jim

    An observation plus opinion: unlike other cities, the National Park Service owns or manages almost ALL the shoreline. In other words, high schools and colleges cannot obtain useful water access except through NPS. And, we must remember that every individual element on park service shoreline isn’t intended for use by every person, nor should it be. Power boaters can’t use rowing facilities. Boaters and rowers can’t access the water through the new waterfront park. Hopefully, a good -balanced- plan for remaining development will come.

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